My Carer, a play by Sam Cosentino performed at the Hellenic Theatre in the Addison Road Community complex in Marrickville in Sydney’s Inner West in late January brought home to the audience the universal themes of loss, family, old age and caring.
Sam uses Mai, a young Korean woman with a 5-year old called Lucy to bring home to Rebecca and her son, James, how important it is to talk to and care for each other.
Mother and son have become estranged.
Rebecca was the family’s major breadwinner, a lawyer who worked the long hours necessary to pay the mortgage and make sure that James had a good education.
Rebecca says in the play that her husband used to tell her that her son would grow up and she would never have spent time with him.
And she acknowledges that that time has come to pass and with it has come the loss of her son’s love.
She regrets it.
James meanwhile has grown into a young man, a musician based in Melbourne, Mai, is in contact with him and knows that he is in Sydney for work.
Rebecca can no longer differentiate time. Sometimes she lives in the present, she knows that she lives by herself and that Mai has come to clean the house and at other times she lives in the past when she was a harried young lawyer trying to juggle childcare and a high-pressure job while also ensuring that the two males in her life lived up to her exacting standards.
The one time in the past that both son and mother revisit with fondness is the time he was sick in hospital and she would visit at night after work. He remembered the lipstick marks on his hand, left by her kisses, which in the mornings reminded him that his mother had been to visit during the night and she remembered how worried she was and how tiny he looked in his bed.
Love is there, the issue is to remember it.
“Mr James, you need each other now…as you did when you were a little boy….You are here now, make it mean something …..Mr James, Miss Rebecca…You still have drops of goodness in you…. make it mean something… From pain and emptiness, one can start again, drop by drop.
Only little drops, but it’s a new beginning, a new start…..
It’s been raining today, and maybe more rain tonight. I like the rain.
Hhmm, lots of water, lots of drops (Mai leaves the room)”,
Mai Kang – actor Helen Kim, in My Carer. Walk Now Production Facebook Post 21 January 2018, 13.05
Community theatre is just that, it brings the community together with the playwright and the cast and allows the audience to feel involved.
In the Question and Answer session after the second performance, the actors, Maria de Marco (Rebecca), Helen Kim (Mai), and Jacob McLean (James), laughed as they spoke about the fun and joy of being part of an ensemble that had worked together to bring the play to fruition.
Mr McLean said that the early weeks of chatting and talking about family had made the conflict in the play harder and more real, and it had hurt to play those parts.
The play is a work in progress and Ms de Marco said that the ability to talk about the play and discuss how it might work better every night with her fellow actors and with playwright and director, Sam Cosentino, was a privilege and a rarity, but it also led to changes in the way the play was performed.
These changes were picked up by an audience member on the second night.
When he was asked whether the changes made the play work better, his response was, “Yeah. It was amazing.”
The idea of the privilege of being able to work closely with a director is a notion echoed by English actress, Maggie Smith when she talks about her experience working on the film of the play, The Lady in the Van.
In the short film, The making of the Lady in the Van, part of the DVD selection, she says, “You’re left very isolated in the theatre, you know, you get abandoned by a director. Because a film is such a tight compact unit and because you are all very close together, hours and hours and hours a day. I got to know Nick (Nicholas Hynter, the Director) more, when we were filming, and I think it was true of Nick getting to know me. It’s just a great treat to have a director there.”
The actors have laid bits of themselves in their characters and in the props on stage. A photo of Maria’s own son, ten minutes after his birth is one of the photos on the dresser in Rebecca’s bedroom. A photo of a younger Jacob and photos of Sam’s Uncle and Sam’s partner Jenny Ward also adorn the dresser. And finally, the sheets on the bed are Sam and Jenny’s, truly an ensemble production.